“I think Brooke made a run for it. I’m hearing code purple.”
He started laughing. “She won’t get far. She hates the outdoors, but that’s not important. How are you?”
How was I?
I sighed, not even wanting to ask myself that question.
“Huh?” I asked.
“You sighed. What were you thinking?”
I did? And then I laughed. “We sound like a couple. The old ‘what are you thinking’ question.”
Things just got awkward.
Why’d I say that? What was the point?
I glanced down, and started to pick at my blanket. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Why did you?”
He didn’t sound upset, just curious.
I shrugged, though he couldn’t see me. Pressing the phone tighter to my ear, I leaned back on the bed, my head finding the pillow.
“I don’t know, to be honest. I mean, I hate you.”
“Of course.” His tone was dry.
“I tried to stab you.”
“It was a good try.” Wry this time.
“I thought you killed that guy.”
“As is typical when relationships are starting.”
My mouth twitched at that. “You kidnapped a bunch of my friends.”
“I kidnapped you.”
“Oh yes. Good point.”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
I settled into the bed, the warm baritone of his voice washing over me.
I yawned. “I saw you shoot a woman.”
I laughed. “You baited me into running away from you to see if Blade would let any information slip.”
“Which I hated doing, by the way. I didn’t like thinking of you being cold.”
“Aw, thank you for that.”
“I care. Sometimes.” A pause. “Don’t get used to it.”
I laughed again. “You burned a house down because you cared.”
“I more had it explode than burned it down, but yes.” He chuckled softly. “And thank God these phones are encrypted.”
My mouth snapped shut. I’d forgotten. “Oh, shit. I’m sorry.”
“You’re fine. We use them for a reason.”
Right. Because he’s in the mafia.
I screwed my eyes tight, rubbing my forehead and feeling a pressure there. I’d been enjoying myself, but one reminder about our true reality, and everything came rushing back.
He was mafia, and not just any mafia. He was the mafia. Other mafia feared him. And he was gone, probably doing mafia stuff. Which was why I didn’t ask where he was.
“What are you going to do about my dad?” I asked. Everything had changed from our conversation on that boulder.
“I’m going to kill him.”
The pressure moved to my neck, spreading down my shoulder blades.
“Because of me?”
“Because he got a man inside my team. That doesn’t work for me.” He bit out, “Ever.”
“Why do you tell me these things?”
“You asked,” he said. And after a moment added, “I only share what’s pertinent to you, and what I feel you will hold in trust. I don’t tell you the secrets I know will violate your moral compass.” He dropped his voice low. “I wouldn’t do that to you.”
But there it was. The issue with us. I was on one side, he on the other.
My throat stung.
“What are you going to do with your sister and her boyfriend?”
“What I told you before.”
He was going to use him. “Brooke too?”
He was quiet a moment. “I love my sister. I’ll take care of her, like I always have.”
“And what if she wants something different?” The sting in my throat morphed into a different pain, which ran all the way to my fingers. “What if she wants to be free one day?”
“Then…” His voice was soft. He had to know what I was really asking. “I would let her go.”
I exhaled sharply. All the molecules in my body relaxed, all at the same time.
I opened my eyes, a tear sliding to my cheek. It was a good tear.
“Okay,” I rasped.
I could still hear an alarm going off outside my room. “Brooke will be okay?”
“She’ll be fine. She’s not stupid.” A beat. “That stupid.”
I laughed softly. “Okay.”
“Okay.” He mocked me softly, but I could hear his grin through the phone. “I have to go, but I’ll be back soon.”
That felt good. It shouldn’t have, but it did.
I smiled into the phone, slinking back down into the bed. I tried not to say it, but who was I kidding?
“…leave her alone until she wakes up.”
“I know. I’m just saying, I should check on her.”
“Kai said to leave her alone!”
The other voice sighed. “That’s what I just said. I’m going to check on her—”
“I don’t care what my brother said!”
The conversation was taking place outside my door, and though it’d been a soft lull at first, now Brooke was almost yelling at whoever she was talking with in the hallway.
Eric. Ah. The security guard she enjoyed flirting with, even though Levi was her heaven on earth.
I looked over to the window, not alarmed but comforted instead. Kai stood there, his hands in his pockets. He’d been turned to look outside. Hearing them start to bicker again, he raked a hand over his face.
“I apologize for both of them,” he said. “If I could fire Brooke, I would.”
A brief nod. “They don’t know I’m in here, though. They think you’re sleeping, and they have strict instructions to leave you alone until I arrive.”
“You snuck in?”
It was early in the morning, early enough that it was still dark. The slight coloring on his cheeks indicated he’d just gotten in himself.
“I snuck in. Brooke called Eric into her room down the hallway for a second.”
“Would you fire Eric?” I pushed myself to a sitting position, scooting back to rest against the headboard.
He came over, keeping his voice quiet as he stood next to me. He reached idly for my hand, caressing my fingers. “Eric was purposefully assigned to Brooke. They dated when they were younger. If anyone will watch over her, Eric will.”
It felt right to be in here with Kai, him holding my hand, having this intimate moment while they were out there.
And that felt wrong.
I coughed lightly, my fingers squeezing his for a second. “They dated?”
He nodded, almost absentmindedly. “Eric’s from an old family. I owed his uncle a favor, more than one, and he called it in. They’re no longer active in the mafia lifestyle, but Eric wanted to learn. He might be a security guard now, but he has promise. He’ll step in and bring his family back into the fold one day. He’s not ready yet, though.”
Another thought came to mind. I felt a tug in my gut.
“And if Brooke were dating him again, that’d tie your families together?”
He’d been gazing at our joined hands, but he looked up. The corner of his mouth tugged up too. “No. I’m not like that. Brooke can date who she wants, but she’ll have to make a decision to either bring that person fully into the family or keep them out. There’ll be no in-between.”
There was an ominous note in those words.
I echoed, dully, “You’re either in, or you’re out.”
He nodded. “Something like that.” His eyes held mine for a measurable minute before he let go of my hand and moved onto the bed beside me. I started to scoot over, but he clamped a hand on my waist, holding me in place. There wasn’t enough room until he lifted my leg to lay it over him.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked.
Gah. I almost didn’t hear him.
“Yes.” My voice was raspy again. “You? Comfortable there?”
The barest hint of a smile graced his face, and his eyes began to trace down my body. “I am, actually.” His hand slid to my stomach, lingered, and began to move down.
My heart picked up. So did my body heat.
I felt a throb beneath his palm, wherever it moved.
He rested it just under my belly button, pausing on the curve. The end of his palm pressed above my clit. He wasn’t watching me, only staring at his hand. “On the phone you were asking about yourself, not Brooke.”
My mouth watered, as if I saw a mirage in the distance during a twenty-mile trek over the Sahara.
His hand moved down another inch. The slightest hint of pleasure coursed through me—a shot, a zing, a tingle. He held his hand against my clit.
Not much separated us. A sheet, my underwear, and the softest material I’d ever worn for pants.
The conversation outside the door quieted as everything about Kai took my focus.
The way his finger began rubbing over my tummy in a slow circle.
How if he pushed down, just the slightest bit, I would need to bite down to suppress a groan.
My heartbeat picked up. My breathing grew deeper. And that throb only increased. It had become a yearning, a thirst, and my mouth kept watering.
“If I would let you go, if you wanted that.”
Another inch and I felt him right there, right on the throbbing.
I tried not to squirm, but I wanted him in me.
I was damn near panting for it.
“Yes,” I whispered, my eyelids growing heavy. I watched him, my chest rising and falling, faster and faster.
He began tugging the sheet away, but kept his hand in place. It bunched around him, as if he were a dam.